Thursday, August 30, 2018

Summertime Refreshment: Gazpacho!

by Cheryl Brooks

Yeah, I know I have a book release coming up next Tuesday, (Cat Star Legacy 1: Maverick) but right now, I'm more concerned with what to do with all the produce from my garden! I've made squash soups, several loaves of zucchini bread, zucchini pancakes, ratatouille, two batches each of salsa and sweet pickle relish, fried up a ton of okra, and frozen enough green beans to make it through the winter.

Just when I think I have things under control, I go out to the garden and find all the giant zucchinis and cucumbers that have been hiding from me. This year, I planted cosmos, zinnias, and coreopsis in the corners of the garden, and the cucumbers have been climbing through them to latch onto the fence. Hidden in the foliage, I don't spot them until they're already humongous!

Gazpacho is another tasty way to use up excess produce. I've made this a few times, and if you double the recipe, you can condense quite a few veggies until they fit into one large pitcher. For added flavor, try adding some fresh basil or use basil-flavored olive oil. (I've made that, too!)

Don't sweat the chopping overmuch. The blender will do most of the work for you. *:D big grin



4 large (not gargantuan) tomatoes, cored and chopped (about 2 pounds total)
2 sweet banana peppers (or 1 of those big, long red ones whose name I don’t know) cored, seeded and chopped
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 to 2 tsp onion powder (if raw onions don’t bother you, you can use a small white or red onion, peeled and chopped)
1 clove garlic, peeled
2 tsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp salt
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

  1. Combine tomatoes, pepper, cucumber, onion (or onion powder), and garlic in a blender at high speed until smooth. I usually blend the tomatoes first, then gradually add the other vegetables.
  2. With the motor running, add the vinegar and salt, then drizzle in the olive oil and blend until creamy and orange-colored.
  3. Strain the mixture through a strainer or a food mill, and discard the remaining solids. Pour into a glass pitcher and chill until ready to serve. Adjust the seasoning to taste and enjoy!

Friday, August 17, 2018

Linda Broday: Fall's Coming!

The months have really whizzed by and fall is almost here. That means county fairs. I can't wait.

There is nothing better than fair food--the fried Oreos, Twinkies and fried cheese, the hamburgers and fries, the pizza. Yummy. Which brings me to my subject of the fried pie.

Pies have been around since Medieval times when they needed something to seal in the juices of cooked meat or fruit. Someone (whoever it was earned my undying gratitude) developed dough and it was perfect.

But in the 1800s, these upstart, practical Americans came up with something truly ingenious--the FRIED PIE.

No one really knows where they originated but a good many believe they came from the mountains of the Carolinas, Kentucky, and Virginia.

Early on, they were called "hand pies" or "crab lanterns."

Whatever they were called, these were enthusiastically received. They were portable, no mess and you held them in your hand. Didn't need a fork or plate. Folks could pack them into a protective tin and put in saddlebags, put them in lunch pails, take them on trains or out on the range.

First, for those who don't know what they are, I should probably explain. Picture this-- a circle of dough, a filling of either fruit or meat on one side, the other half folded over then crimped with a fork to seal the edges, after which they're put into a fryer of hot grease.

Absolutely out of this world!

Even the health conscious can enjoy them....baked.

Many prefer a meat filling of beef or chicken and those are really yummy too. The Hispanics have something similar called empanadas. Oh man, I love those too!

I like that they’re an old treat and have been around for a long time. I close my eyes sometimes and picture a wife bringing a plate of them to the table and how eyes would light up.

Some would argue that fried pies are a Southern treat, but hold up there, pardner!

Our 14th president, Franklin Pierce, who hailed from New Hampshire, craved fried pies and brought them with him to the White House. (1853-1857)

In Texas Mail Order Bride, Book #1 of the Bachelors of Battle Creek series, my middle bachelor Rand Sinclair's mother made them and Rand sold them out of his Lily of the West Saloon. Cooper Thorne with his notorious sweet tooth was a regular customer. His favorite was peach along with a bottle of sarsaparilla.

I love apricot the best but I like them all and can eat my weight in them. Sometimes I resort to buying them in the grocery store but they really can’t compare to homemade.

How about you? Have you eaten a fried pie (or baked)? What do you think of them? Which are your favorites?

Monday, August 6, 2018

Brave New Earl is Out

Brave New Earl is out! I’m so pleased that people have been enjoying it. Publishers Weekly said it has "complex, intriguing characterization…in an endearing, optimistic story of second chances." And Long and Short Reviews called it "a wonderful book to pick up if you are in need of a sweet and satisfying happy ever after. All the main characters are engaging and convincingly brought to life and I finished the story with a smile on my face." Booklist was kind enough to say that "Ashford begins the Way to a Lord’s Heart series by, once again, expertly bending the conventions of Regency historicals to gift readers with a refreshingly different, sweetly romantic love story they will long remember." I hope you may agree.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Excerpt from To Have And To Harley

Please enjoy this excerpt from To Have And To Harley, first in the new series Bikers & Brides.

His footsteps were heavy on the steps to Wolf’s front porch. As he stopped, his fist raised to knock, voices inside met his ears.
“…would just listen to me for a minute, I know what I’m talking about.”
“Come on, Ace. You don’t know anything more about this crap than any of us do.”
“No, no, that’s where you’re wrong. I’ve been watching a documentary series about weddings, and now I know how brides think.”
A snort came from someone, probably Wolf. “And what series is that?”
Say Yes to the Dress.”
A chorus of groans and curses followed, with some yelps that indicated Ace’s smart-ass ways were earning him a few punches to the arm.
Trey rested his fist against the door, head hanging down.
Every time. Every goddamn time. Whenever he was ready to give up on everything for the good of the group, they’d rush right underneath him and hold him up.
Wolf had opened the door, causing Trey’s hand to fall. Trey just looked at him for a long, hard moment.
“Everybody’s here.”
“Wolf,” Trey said, his voice even rougher than usual. “Step outside.”
Wolf glanced over his shoulder, then let the front door close behind him. They were alone on Wolf’s front porch, the painted white railings and dusky-gray boards surrounding them.
“I’m thinking about…” Trey coughed. “Sorry. I’m going to call off the wedding project.”
Wolf’s nostrils flared, the only indication of his surprise. “Why, Boss?”
Trey looked past Wolf, down toward the gravel path that led the way off their property, toward the highway. The road he’d take to her—Bethany.
God, he was going to miss her.
“Because I’ve put too much on you guys. Last night wouldn’t have gone down the way it had if Jameson hadn’t been on edge from the wedding.”
Wolf shook his head, crossing his big arms over his chest.
“No way. You wouldn’t have been able to stop him from snapping when Vinnie said that. You know he’s sensitive about kids.”
Trey looked down at his second. “Whether or not I could have, my decision is made. I wanted you to know first.”
The corners of Wolf’s mouth turned down, difficult as they were to see with his majestic beard. “Of course it’s your call, Boss. But they’ve really been enjoying all this.”
Trey scoffed, but Wolf continued. “Really. It’s given them something new to do. A challenge. Hell, I’ve enjoyed it myself. And honestly”— the volume of Wolf’s voice lowered as he stepped closer—“I think it’s been good for you too.”
Trey bared his teeth. “Don’t play armchair psychologist with me.”
“As long as I’ve known you, you’ve never smiled the way you have the last few weeks. I’ve noticed it. We’ve all noticed it. And that’s why we’ve thrown ourselves into this wedding crap. We care about you, Boss. And if this makes you happy, then that’s what we want to do.”
Trey shook his head. The burden of this… It was too much. Feeling was too much. He wished he could go back to before that investigator waltzed in and capsized his life.
But he couldn’t wind back the clock, and he couldn’t undo the damage. Especially those little dents in his heart that had been given by a certain girl with blond hair, blue eyes, and the sweetest smile he’d ever seen.
“My mind’s made up. The wedding planning is over.”
“Aw, come on, Boss! I was just getting good at it! Come on, I brought a freaking vision board!”
Trey started, then whirled on his heel. Ace was standing there in the open front door, an intense frown on his normally jovial face.
“What the hell is a vision board?”
Ace grinned, then ducked into the house. Trey followed, Wolf at his heels.
“Look. See, fabric swatches, patterns… Look, I even did a mock-up of the cake.”
“I told him that design wouldn’t work,” Doc interjected. “Look at the way those tiers are stacked. It’ll never hold up under all that fondant.”
“If you used some supports of some kind under that edge,” Wolf pointed, “then it would probably have more structural integrity. Can’t you have each layer stacked on cardboard?”
Doc scoffed as Ace nodded. Dean shook his head. “I don’t like the colors.”
Ace rounded on him. “What do you mean? It’s white and pink! Chicks love pink!”
“Yeah, when they’re seven. Grow the hell up, man. Grown women don’t like pink.”
A full-scale argument erupted, and all Trey could do was watch as eleven grown-ass, tatted-up biker dudes had a yelling match, complete with a few fists flying, over wedding colors.
“See?” Wolf crossed his arms, his grin flashing white through his beard. “They’re having fun.”
Trey just shook his head as the argument escalated, with Ace finally crying uncle.
“Let’s put it to a vote,” Dean yelled over the melee. “All those in favor of pink and white, say aye.”
“Aye!” Ace’s yell was hard to hear, since Rocco’s boot was on his face.
“All opposed?”
The nays were so loud that Trey would have worried about the structural integrity of the room if anyone but Wolf had built it.
Trey smiled. Those roughneck assholes cared. And he wasn’t going to take that from them at this point.
It was just another month or two. As long as he could balance things, it would be okay. He had to believe that.
Besides, he wasn’t sure how long he could have kept away from Bethany. The need to see her again was almost a pain inside his belly.
“All right, boys.”
The scuffle stopped at the sound of Trey’s voice. He stepped in the middle of the group, settling himself on the couch. “Let’s see the rest of your board so we can fix your fool ideas.”
Ace grinned, Dean snorted, and the rest of the bikers settled themselves around the room, ready to give opinions whenever asked—and more often, whenever they weren’t.
Trey couldn’t have been more grateful for them. They’d kept him sane more often than not, and here they were, doing it again.
He was a lucky bastard; that was for sure.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Excerpt from A Wolf Apart

Enjoy this excerpt from A Wolf Apart where Silver must face her lying-in, the last weeks of her pregnancy. It is a deeply stressful and arduous time and Elijah and the Pack do everything they can to care for her.

And when it’s all clean and stocked, the Alphas head out to the Meeting House to retrieve Silver herself. I link elbows with Eudemos to my left. Across from me, Tristan takes my hands. Altogether twelve of us, with Evie at the head, join hands and arms, linked together in this unbreakable chain of responsibility. Silver’s slight body will be laid across our arms, and we will carry her to the Boathouse.
Silver may be the weakest member of the Pack, but she is about to fight the hardest battle a wolf can face. Up until now, the little beings inside her have changed in response to their mother’s hormones. Soon, they will start responding to each other, and for the next month, Silver will be forced to follow the whims of the four tiny tyrants as they change from skin to wild and back again. If she doesn’t change when they do, if she gives up, her body will see them as aliens and destroy them. The pups will die, but so will Silver.
Every Alpha, the whole Pack, owes her its support, but Victor and a small group of sullen Alphas stand back, gathering around the edges.
Tiberius is already in the large chair, waiting anxiously when we carry Silver in and lay her down. Pillows are fluffed. Blankets are tucked. Then one by one, the Alphas bend over her. Most mark her, though some do not touch her skin. Evie does it last, of course. She squeezes Silver’s hand tightly and whispers something to her. Silver nods.
She seems so small in the middle of the huge mattress built to handle a more viable female.
Everyone looks expectantly at Victor standing at the foot of Silver’s bed, waiting for our Deemer to give the traditional blessing that marks the end of the ceremony and the official beginning of Silver’s lying-in. But Victor says nothing. Because he is standing in front of me, I can’t see his face, but I see the slight movement of his head as he scans the gathered Alphas. Lorcan nods slightly. So do two other younger Alphas. Not Eudemos though. The burly Alpha of the 14th steps forward, positioning himself behind Silver and Tiberius.

The thing I thought I saw when I fought Tiberius is real. Victor doesn’t like change, doesn’t like what’s happening to the Great North. He wants it to go back to the way it was, when we were all, at the very least, wolves.
Because I am descended from the wolves of Mercia, he thinks I am an ally. I know how to speak our tongue. I know our laws. I studied them for years at the feet of the ancient Sigeburg, our previous Deemer. What he doesn’t know is that I am an abomination much more terrible than a half Shifter. I am a monster beyond his worst imaginings.
I am a wolf who loves a human.
“Say it, Deemer.” I bow my head and whisper softly in his ear. He suddenly lurches to his toes. I squeeze tighter on the vulnerable sac in my left hand. “Say it.”
“Wes þu gebledsod,” he starts with a squeak.
Be thou blessed. Be thy body as strong as the tree. Be thy will as hard as the mountain. Be thy young as wild as the storm. Be thy land as plentiful and untouched as the stars. Be the lead of men as soft as snow upon thy fur. Be thou blessed.
I let go, my left hand covering my right, my head still lowered. Wes þu gebledsod, I murmur with the rest.
Victor whips around to face me. “You,” he whispers, shaking the crimp out of his clenched scrotum, “have made a fatal mistake.”
“Fatal? Is that what you really mean? Are you challenging me, Deemer? Please, I will not lose.”
“You lost once,” he spits out. “When you needed to win.”
“I have never lost when I needed to win.”
He stomps away, followed by Lorcan and those two other young Alphas.
Had he been any other Pack, I would have challenged him in the paddock, but I can’t. I am a lawyer. I understand the need to protect judges from intimidation and influence, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t dearly love to tear his miserable hide to shreds.
The room has cleared, leaving only Gabi, the ob-gyn, who has once again taken time off from her Offland practice, and Alex, the radiologist who is fitting Silver with an ultrasound holster so that he can give her as much warning as possible that her progeny are switching species.
At the door, I watch Tiberius hold her hand. He looks momentarily at the four little bodies in her body, but then his eyes go careening around the Boathouse, searching for something solid and real and comforting that isn’t the woman who is both the source of his strength and his ultimate weakness.
Then I lope back. Leaning down, I mark Tiberius, first along one cheek, then along the other.
As I leave, Silver gives me a sad, hopeful smile full of sharp teeth.

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

An Excerpt from BAD REPUATION

Enjoy this excerpt from Bad Reputation, book 2 in the Bad Bachelor Series.

She paused at the closed bedroom door that led to the rest of his apartment, pressing her hand to the wood while she mustered the courage to face him. It was messed up, but Remi was more comfortable in the throes of sex than in the moments after. With every other guy since Alex, she’d changed as soon as the deed was done and left with a saucy wink or a lingering kiss. She always left.
Only tonight, she’d fallen asleep entwined in his arms. This was different. He was different.
“Woman up,” she said to herself. “You can make a swift exit and then go on like it never happened.”
But the second she pushed the bedroom door open, her heart melted. His dining table was set for two, a bottle of wine open with two glasses waiting. Wes was in the kitchen, concentrating on measuring out some soy sauce into a sizzling pan on the stove. The guy even had an apron on. Seriously, who the hell was he?
It was like someone had polled a bunch of women and created the perfect man. Handsome face, incredible body, a giving lover, and a whiz in the kitchen judging by the scent.
“You’re so perfect it’s kind of ridiculous,” she said.
He whipped his head around, the surprised expression morphing into a sexy smile. “For someone who had enough orgasms to put her to sleep, you sure are full of insults.”
She padded over to him, her bare feet making soft slapping sounds against the floorboards. “Maybe you should try harder to be less intimidating.”
“It’s all in your head, Remi.” He slipped a finger behind the waist tie and pulled her closer.
“You can’t possibly be ready to go again.” She laughed and pressed a hand to his crotch, as though this was totally normal behavior, and found him hard again. “Bloody hell. You’re a machine.”
“A sex machine.”
“That’s not normal.” She couldn’t help but rub her hand up and down. Call her shallow, but she was all kinds of excited knowing he was so eager for her. “I have serious concerns for your health and well-being.”
“What do I do, Doc?” He drew her against him, walking them away from the stove until he hit the other set of cupboards behind him. Her hips swirled against his, eliciting the bite of his fingers at her waist. “How do I rectify this issue?”
“I don’t know if anything can be done. You might have to amputate.”
“Whoa.” He grabbed her by the shoulders, his brow crinkled. “You never joke about that kind of thing. You trying to give me a heart attack or something?”
She laughed and draped her arms over his shoulders. “At least that might slow you down.”
“There will be no further discussion of cutting off my manhood, thank you very much.” He looked her in the eyes and she felt it right down to her toes, making them curl against the polished boards. How did he do that to her? It was such a small thing and yet it was…everything. “Now, can I interest you in my specialty?”
“You ask me now, after I’ve had your specialty twice tonight?” She bit down on her lip when he rolled her eyes.
“I’m trying to be romantic here and you’ve got your mind in the gutter.” He didn’t look annoyed in the slightest. “I might be a machine, but even machines need fuel.”
Dinner. It seemed a whole lot scarier than the touching and kissing and panting. The smart move would be to bail now, before things got weird. Before they started talking and doing that kind of stuff she generally avoided.
But the truth was she was really freaking hungry.
“It smells amazing,” she admitted.
“It’s my go-to—honey, soy, and ginger stir-fry with whatever vegetables I happen to have in my fridge.” He released her. “Tonight that’s carrots, snap peas, and red peppers.”
Most guys wouldn’t have worried about dinner. A good guy might have offered to call the local Chinese takeout place. Wes had made her something healthy and delicious like it was nothing.
“Why are you so sweet?” she asked, folding her arms across her chest. “Have you got some kind of trick up your sleeve?”
He chuckled. “Yeah, I want to feed you so we can go back to bed afterward.”
“You don’t need to feed me to do that.”
“Maybe I enjoy your company. Is that so hard to believe?” He grabbed a wooden spoon and stirred the vegetables around the wok, lifting the scent of ginger and garlic into the air. Remi’s mouth watered. “And, despite what you might have read, I’m don’t screw around for the sake of it. If I sleep with someone, it’s because I like them.”
The scariest thing of all was that Remi wanted to believe him. Normally when a guy tossed her a line like that, she’d smile and nod all the while thinking yeah right. It never affected her, because she refused to put herself in a situation where she’d get attached. Like the time she had a friends-with-benefits arrangement with a guy who lived in Las Vegas. He’d only ever come to New York for one or two nights at a time. It was fun. Only fun.
That was the kind of thing she needed in her life. Something low maintenance and low commitment that required the minimum attention. Like a cactus.
Cactus sex, good. Homemade stir-fries and real conversation sex, bad.
“In case that wasn’t clear enough, I like you,” he added.
No, no, no.
Her head had clearly gotten the memo, but the uneven, too-fast thump of her heart showed that not all major body parts were on the same page. And that was a problem.
“This is the part where you give me some verbal indication of whether or not that feeling is reciprocated.” He shot her a crooked smile. “So I don’t stand here like an idiot twiddling my thumbs.”
Her first instinct was to make some kind of joke that revolved around an inappropriate use of the word twiddle.
“I like you too,” she said.
Wrong answer! Abort mission. I repeat, abort mission.